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Darren Francis recently won not only the Investor for Change award at the SA Property Investors Network (SAPIN) but also received a standing ovation as he was named Investor of the Year.
The annual awards ceremony brings together property investors, financiers and property professionals to celebrate those who have put together property deals that are uplifting suburbs, communities and cities.
“We are obsessed with discovering new and unexpected opportunities that open doors for our clients and people alike, and this is why Just Property saw it fit to sponsor the prize for Darren Francis. We believe in creating wealth through property, and this is exactly what he does- not only for himself but for people in his community too,” says Paul Stevens.
Francis has rebuilt and renovated a dilapidated piece of property and turned it into a multi-let property, bringing jobs and hope to the Cape Flats. We asked him to tell us more about his investment strategy and advice for would-be investors.
When did you start investing in property?
The journey truly began when, at 27, I read a book written by Jason Lee, “Making money out of property”, back in 2009. Within the first five pages, I was gripped and began researching, talking to people and looking at property trends. I just decided to focus on residential property for the first three years but I had no idea of the journey and growth ahead of me. Ten years later, I sold my first investment property.
What made you choose property?
I have tried Forex trading and started photography, PR and other businesses, but property has been more consistent in terms of growth. The strategy I employ is simple, and I play in a market that is not focused on the big players. The ROI on almost every investment since 2019 has been very satisfying. To date, we have flipped six homes, are in the process of registering a vacant erf and have one rental property in our portfolio.
Tell us about that first property…
It was a complete and utter wreck. You could stand at the front door and look through the walls. Where there’d been copper pipes, there were holes in the walls and the window frames were being removed when I bought it. The only thing that was intact was the roof, but I could see the potential. I told my mom, “Just look at the beauty of the households. Many months, tears, sweat and stress, and it was transformed into the property I knew it would be.
Every project since has been similar – of the six, five required a full gut and replacement, from the toilet bowl to ceilings. For the last property, we replaced ceilings, wiring etc.
What challenges did you encounter?
Dealing with ineffective workers/contractors and shortage of material was very challenging, but we managed to use creative strategies to ensure we limit our risk going forward. The teams I use now are based on those early learnings; we operate much more smoothly and work 50% faster.
Please describe your vision …
I come from a poor background and, growing up in Tafelsig, I wanted to do good as well as make something of myself. After flipping my first property, I visited my mother and she sent me to the shop for her. I looked at the young people sitting on the corners and it dawned on me that I could make a change: through my investments, I could employ people and hopefully change their circumstances.
I dropped the goods for my mom and told her, “This property thing is bigger than me – the purpose of my journey is bigger than me making money.”
My vision was first to secure cash for growth, but I always knew this strategy would change once we reached our desired level. That time has come and now. We want to grow our share of the rental market in 2022 by offering quality, affordable accommodation with excellent services for the people of the Cape Flats and surrounds.
What is your new strategy?
We are working on something that could feed many families for months whilst creating jobs in these areas. Money isn’t our main focus; we want to create jobs and living spaces that our people can be proud of. We are diligently working and adapting to our new tenant strategy: to look for tenants who are trustworthy and to treat them well.
What area do you focus on?
I focus on Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. Not many investors would think of investing there, but Mitchells Plain has always been close to my heart. Analysts and other investors always look at the big markets, like the Atlantic seaboard. I am fascinated that they ignore areas like Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.
That was my opportunity. I watched the market, and lo and behold, it went in the direction I believed it would. Billions leave these areas, but very little investment is made there. This is something we are looking at changing very soon. There is room for big investments in Mitchell’s plain, and we hope to secure partners to create these opportunities for our people whilst creating significant returns on investments.
What is your advice to youngsters who would like to become property investors?
Dream! Follow that dream, follow it up with dedication, determination and discipline. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is part of the journey to success. Remember, you are always one step closer to succeeding. Make sure you have sound financial goals and live by them! Then get the right education to assist you in getting you to that property dream.
What does winning these awards mean to you?
I am certainly looking forward to the training I’ll be getting from Just Property. Trying to change the lives of many requires building relationships with experts in their relative fields. We are looking at using our relationship with Just Property to ensure our future growth.
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